Teaching active children can definitely be an adventure, but it’s a wonderful adventure! Today we have the privilege of chatting with Janna*, a homeschool mom who uses All About Reading and All About Spelling with her two very active boys.
I first met Janna online via Facebook. Isn’t it interesting how you can get to know someone’s personality through online chats? From our interactions, I knew that Janna was a sincere, hardworking homeschool mom.
Janna’s husband works long hours, and they are a one-car family, so Janna spends a lot of one-on-one time with her seven- and nine-year-old boys. It always makes me chuckle to see photos of the boys, often shirtless, running around their 950-square-foot apartment, burning off energy by engaging in very physical games.
I asked Janna if she’d share with us how she’s able to use AAR and AAS with such active offspring.
Marie is right: my boys are great big bundles of energy! Here’s how I make All About Reading and All About Spelling work in our homeschool.
I teach reading and spelling in my bedroom on the bed. I set the white board on the bed and my sons either stretch out on the bed or sit on an exercise ball next to the bed. Why do I teach in my bedroom? So I can close the door and shut out distractions. While I teach one son, the other one works on school work in a different subject in another part of our apartment.
I store my materials in the bottom drawer of my dresser. We don’t have a lot of storage in our apartment. I used to keep our school materials in a desk drawer in the living room, but usually ended up leaving the materials out on the trunk in my room. That makes my room look messier. Then it dawned on me—just put it in your dresser since you always teach in here anyway! Our magnetic white board gets stowed on its side between the dresser and the wall.
Sometimes I allow snacks and stuffed animals during lessons. It all depends on their level of self-control on a particular day. It’s hard to concentrate on learning something new when you’re hungry. And if the stuffed animal wants to read, hey, it’s extra practice!
Even though I’m a mom of a special needs child (my oldest has Asperger’s), at this point my boys are great readers and pretty good spellers. They don’t have a lot of struggles understanding the information. Their biggest struggles are focus and cooperation. My biggest struggle is patience. When he’s building words, my Aspie loves to make the letter tiles crash into each other with loud sound effects. It can take for-e-ver and it drives me crazy. But if I stop and think about it, does it really matter? He’s practicing his skills and he’s still learning. I sometimes employ a tip from Merry, AALP’s customer service superstar. She limited her son’s “tile crashing” to a certain number of words. Then both parties win.
My Aspie and I have learned to compromise. When we started All About Spelling Level 3, I reminded him of the sequence of spelling a word with tiles, starting with segmenting and dragging one tile at a time. He got very upset and I couldn’t understand why. He explained, “It makes me feel like a little boy.” So I told him we could skip that step for now, but if the words get harder for him, we may go back to that later.
Another trick I employ is one that an AALP mom shared with me. She combines the 15 minutes for spelling and 20 minutes for reading into a single 35-minute session. Some days more may be spent on spelling and less on reading, other times vice versa. As a result, if one subject has a harder concept one day and needs a bit more time, the other can be light. I’ve started to use a timer to keep me from frustrating the boys with the temptation to “just finish this little bit more.”
Depending on the day’s energy level, sometimes I have my sons do jumping jack breaks between reading and spelling.
Sometimes I try to come up with different ways to review spelling words. I still need to get better at this. Writing is hard for both my boys, but they’re good at spelling. I have let them draw their words in a tray of colored sugar. They’ve also typed their words on the computer or written them on a white board. I just bought some colored sand to try out an idea from the AALP Pinterest boards. I hope to find even more ways for them to practice besides on paper. Anything to keep these busy boys happy!
With my youngest, we had to take a few months off from reading in the beginning. Since he’d already been reading three-letter words, I thought he was ready to learn how to read. But when we started with Level 1, he was having lots of letter reversals and confusion. After much frustration for both of us, I decided perhaps he wasn’t as ready as I thought. We took two or three months off, and when we started up again he had much less trouble.
I hope some of these ideas will help you as you personalize All About Reading and All About Spelling in your own homeschool!
Here’s What I Love about Janna’s Story
These points about homeschooling a child with an abundance of energy really stood out to me:
Janna doesn’t let lack of space or transportation deter her from doing a great job homeschooling her boys.
She recognizes her boys’ need to burn off energy.
She has found a place in her bedroom to organize the curriculum and teach her kids, and she is able to shut her bedroom door to block out distractions.
Teaching Active Children: Tips Recommended by Our Readers
We bought a swing that hangs in a door frame, and my daughter swings in that while I am reading to her. When it is nice outside, I sit on the front porch and read to her when she rides her scooter up and down the driveway. (Recommended by Carrie A. via Facebook)
My kids love to jump rope while spelling the words. (Recommended by Kim A. via Facebook)
We do short segments of school and some trampoline jumping in between—and healthy snacks while we’re studying. (Recommended by Rebecca H. via Facebook)
I allow my children to stand during school, unless they are doing handwriting pages. (Recommended by Judy L. via Facebook)
We use an exercise ball to sit on. (Recommended by Sara D. via Facebook)
Do some exercises mid-morning! (Recommended by Noel G. via Facebook)
Cut the fluency sheets into strips. Make a paper chain with the strips as your child reads them. (Recommended by Kim via blog comment)
Spell outside on the driveway with chalk. (Recommended by Lisa via blog comment)
Shoot flashcards with a nerf gun when they reads them correctly. (Recommended by Cassandra M. via blog comment)
Hide word cards around the house for your child to find. (Recommended by Nicole M. via blog comment)
Place word cards on the stairs for your child to read as he goes up and down the stairs. (Recommended by Bekki via blog comment)
Jump on a mini trampoline while spelling words. (Recommended by Erica K. via blog comment)
To review words, scatter letter notecards around the room and have your child jump from letter to letter to spell words. Also works outside with sidewalk chalk! (Recommended by Cookie via blog comment)
*To preserve the privacy of the child featured in this story, we did not use the family’s real names.